12 Home Decorating and Design Tips From Experts

Interior design and renovation professionals weigh in on the best practices for home design.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Oct. 17, 2019, at 4:23 p.m.

12 Home Decorating and Design Tips From Experts

Slideshow

Sharpen your design skills.

Photo of designer working with palette closeup in office

(Getty Images)

Whether you’re looking to freshen up a single room or make your entire house a showstopper for guests, you may find yourself wondering how to get started. You don’t necessarily need an interior designer to help you achieve the right look or feel for a space, as long as you have a vision and feel confident about your decisions. We’ve asked home renovation, design and decorating experts to weigh in on important details to consider as you prepare for your next home improvement project. Read on for 12 expert-approved tips on decorating your home.

Begin designing where it matters most.

Begin designing where it matters most.

Woman sitting in armchair in sunlight with closed eyes

(Getty Images)

When decorating your home, it’s often best to go room by room. But which room should you take on first? “Most people start in the room they spend the most time in,” says Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles. “In new-construction homes, it’s typically the great room or the living room and then the kitchen.” For the sake of entertaining visitors, it makes sense to prioritize common areas. Once you’ve tackled the spaces where you spend most of your waking hours, you can work to improve bathrooms and bedrooms, followed by less critical spaces like the laundry room or linen closet.

Consider your personal space.

Consider your personal space.

(Getty Images)

While tackling your living room may be the ideal first project, don't neglect your bedroom. “People overlook their master bedroom – especially families. They make sure everyone else is happy,” says Leanne Ford, co-host of HGTV’s “Restored by the Fords” and co-author of “Work in Progress: Unconventional Thoughts on Designing an Extraordinary Life.” A bedroom doesn’t require the extensive plumbing, electrical work and new appliances that a kitchen or bathroom may require, and you can create a new look simply by adding new paint and light fixtures or lamps. Consider directing your budget for this room toward a comfortable new mattress or a chair to read and relax in. “You can redo your master bedroom for what, $5,000 all in, and you can create a kind of a sanctuary,” Ford says.

Determine how much change you want to make.

Determine how much change you want to make.

Beautiful woman decorating at home hanging picture frame on wall

(Getty Images)

When redesigning a room, decide whether your vision requires simple changes like moving furniture and hanging new drapes, or if you'll be starting a months-long project that requires construction. Taking on a do-it-yourself project, for example, isn’t just about how skilled you are, but “also what your appetite is for making a mess,” says Barbara Kavovit, founder and CEO of Evergreen Construction in New York City and author of “Heels of Steel,” a novel about the construction industry. If you’re not up for having your living room covered in tarps for weeks to remove a wall and install recessed lighting, or even just a couple of days to paint the walls, you’ll want to stick to simply moving furniture and art around and patching nail holes.

Know your budget.

Know your budget.

(Getty Images)

A tight budget doesn’t mean it’s impossible to accomplish a new look and feel for a room – it just means you have to be strategic about how you spend your money. To redesign a room for less, Ford says: “It’s about swapping out lighting and a fresh coat of paint.” Painting the walls a new color is a fairly easy project, and you can change the feel of a room with lamps that light upward instead of down or even upgrade your bulbs to LED. Investing in smart lightbulbs will give you dimmer and color-changing options without requiring any electrical work – instead, the lights operate from a remote or an app on your phone.

Take advantage of design blogs.

Take advantage of design blogs.

Young woman working on a laptop

(Getty Images)

There’s no shortage of places you can look to find design inspiration for your home. Interior design magazines often showcase a heavily curated look that can seem intimidating, while design blogs and websites like Pinterest and Houzz can highlight more approachable and achievable aesthetics that will fit your house – and hopefully your budget. Kirk notes that homeowners can take advantage of online resources, because it's easier to find similar pieces of furniture or decor at a lower price compared to the pieces they see in a photo of a designer's or celebrity's home.

Start simple with DIY projects.

Start simple with DIY projects.

(Getty Images)

If you’re looking to take on a DIY project, Kavovit recommends sticking to those that can be accomplished with a limited skill set. Projects like painting walls and changing out fixtures don't require construction knowledge and are less likely to go haywire. “Change the look of your kitchen by painting cabinets. Put up some hooks; change the under-cabinet lighting,” Kavovit says. “You could even add a backsplash with some tile – even if you’re a novice.” Take advantage of online tutorials and how-to YouTube videos to follow a step-by-step project, even if it’s for something simple like replacing a light fixture.

Consider small changes for a new look.

Consider small changes for a new look.

Kitchen faucet spraying fresh, clean cold water.

(Getty Images)

A small project is also ideal if you're unsure of just how you should improve a room. Subtle alterations can tell you if cosmetic differences will do the trick or if you ultimately need a bigger renovation. “Replace a faucet if it’s the kitchen or the bathroom. You can replace a shower head; you can replace a doorknob,” Kavovit says. Consider replacing cabinet pulls, knobs or faucets, which you can find at any home improvement store, and mix and match to try out more modern or traditional accents in a room. A new shower head may be the change you were looking for, or it could make it clear that the size or placement of the shower needs to change.

Go traditional on key pieces.

Go traditional on key pieces.

Close-up photo, contemporary design of cozy gray living room interior with simple sofa, coffee table, rack, plant and yellow accent

(Getty Images)

If you’re excited about new trends or the changing season and want to embrace new colors and patterns, remember not to over-invest in those details. Kirk recommends keeping your large pieces of furniture like your couch and coffee table more traditional and neutral so they have more versatility and longevity. “Then use your accessories and those other elements to bring out the trends, so when trends change it’s easier to update,” Kirk says. You may love plaid and deep greens or reds during the fall and winter, but come summer they look out of place. With a gray couch, you can change out green throw pillows and a plaid blanket for a pale pink come springtime.

Ignore trends you don't like.

Ignore trends you don't like.

African American woman relaxing on sofa

(Getty Images)

While home renovation shows and Pinterest often highlight what styles are popular now, Ford stresses that you shouldn’t follow a trend for the sake of fitting in. In any home she works on, Ford says she focuses on creating a space that an individual can feel emotionally attached to, rather than sticking to current trends. “If you don’t love it, do something different,” Ford says. While contemporary design trends call for clean lines and neutral colors as the main focus of a room, you can still make a space feel fresh by mixing in pieces you love that aren’t actively trending. A Victorian chandelier can still be used as a focal point over a dining room table – just consider pairing it with some modern chairs or a table to keep the room from looking dated.

Avoid making the TV the focal point.

Avoid making the TV the focal point.

Monochrome living room with wood and grey tiling accents

(Getty Images)

In a common area like your living room or family room, layout is important. You not only want to make it easy to interact with family and friends, but you also want to be able to watch a movie or listen to music. However, you can encourage more conversation and less focus on the television by keeping it from becoming the focal point of the space. In daily life, “TV is becoming less prevalent,” Kirk says. Consider placing your TV off-center so it’s still easy to watch comfortably, but make the focal point of the room the fireplace or a piece of artwork. If you still want a centered, wall-mounted TV, you can use extended hooks or a sliding rail to cover it with artwork when you’re not watching a show. Samsung even offers a magnetic frame you can attach to your TV, allowing you to set the screen to an image when it's off, making it look like framed art.

Pick furniture that matches your lifestyle.

Pick furniture that matches your lifestyle.

Mother and daughter are playing pretend on the sofa on the sofa in their living room. The little girl and her mum have their arms wide pretending to fly, they both look very happy.

(Getty Images)

When you’re selecting new furniture for your living room and dining area, keep in mind how that space will most often be used. “Let’s say you have a large family (and) you have young children. You want a piece of furniture that’s going to hold up to that,” Kirk says. A sturdy sectional makes a lot more sense when you have kids who are going to climb over the back and roll around than an antique sofa, for example. If you rarely entertain guests or host holiday dinners, a dining table that seats 12 is an unnecessary expense. Similarly, if you work in an office and rarely use the computer at your house, there’s no need to devote a room to a home office when it could be a spare bedroom or playroom.

Make it lively.

Make it lively.

Poufs on striped carpet in spacious living room interior with plants and table next to sofa with pillows

(Getty Images)

Don’t limit your decor to furniture and framed photographs. Design principles of today focus on giving a room more life and texture with plants and natural elements. “People are starting to really be open to more sustainable products. They’re bringing the outdoors in,” Kirk says. If you’re not confident you can keep lots of potted plants alive, incorporate other natural details like pebbles or shells in a bowl or vase, or freshly cut flowers on a tabletop that you can replace weekly. Photos or paintings that show off a landscape also help to bring aspects of the outdoors inside without requiring regular upkeep.

When designing and decorating your home, experts recommend:

When designing and decorating your home, experts recommend:

Home interior images of beautiful designed domestic house

(Getty Images)

  • Begin designing where it matters most.
  • Consider your personal space.
  • Determine how much change you want to make.
  • Know your budget.
  • Take advantage of design blogs.
  • Start simple with DIY projects.
  • Consider small changes for a new look.
  • Go traditional on key pieces.
  • Ignore trends you don't like.
  • Avoid designing around the TV.
  • Pick furniture that matches your lifestyle.
  • Make it lively.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

Recommended Articles

How to Back Out of a Real Estate Deal

Devon Thorsby | April 7, 2020

Here are your best options for backing out of buying or selling a home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Should You Delay Homebuying Right Now?

Wendy Arriz | April 6, 2020

While homebuyer activity has dropped in recent weeks, those with secure financial options and the confidence to find a home site unseen can still find the right home for them.

Housing Market Expectations in 2020

Devon Thorsby | April 2, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has reduced homebuying and selling activity. Here’s how it could impact the housing market for the rest of 2020.

What Take Off Your Must-Have Home List

Steven Gottlieb | April 1, 2020

Don't let your vision of your dream house cloud your judgment on which details you really need in a home.

All About Tenant Rights in New Jersey

Devon Thorsby | March 31, 2020

Here are the basics you should know if you find yourself disagreeing with your landlord.

What to Do If You Can't Pay Rent

Devon Thorsby | March 27, 2020

Orders to close businesses have left many people without income. Here's what to know about making rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

DIY Projects That Add Value to Your Home

Mady Dahlstrom, Devon Thorsby | March 26, 2020

While you're spending extra time at home, add value to your house with these easy do-it-yourself projects.

How to Set Up a Home Gym

Devon Thorsby | March 25, 2020

Create a home gym setup that will encourage you to stay active as you shelter in place.

What's the Cost of Living in New York?

Lisa Larson | March 24, 2020

What does it take to afford one of the most expensive cities in the world? Here is a breakdown of the cost of living in the Big Apple.

'For Sale by Owner' the Right Way

Maryalene LaPonsie | March 23, 2020

Selling your house without an agent can save you thousands, but you could lose money if you don't do it correctly.

10 Secrets to Selling Your Home Faster

Teresa Mears, Devon Thorsby | March 20, 2020

Consider these low-cost ways to sell a home fast by attracting buyers with great photos, fresh curb appeal and social media buzz.

How to Disinfect Your Home

Devon Thorsby, Melissa Shin | March 20, 2020

Pay attention to high-touch areas of your home – especially those you don't normally disinfect.

Can Virtual Staging Help Sell Your Home?

Dima Williams | March 20, 2020

Any staging is better than none, a stager says, but virtual versus physical staging is a decision with sale and profit implications.

How Do I Find My Property Lines?

Devon Thorsby | March 19, 2020

Determining property lines can provide you with information for needed legal changes to your home and backyard.

Virtual Tools for Homebuyers

Devon Thorsby | March 18, 2020

Social distancing doesn't have to prohibit your ability to buy a home. These virtual tools can aid in the deal.

What to Know If Buying New Construction

Wendy Arriz | March 17, 2020

You have the chance to avoid the headache and hassle of construction and move into your brand-new dream home.

Coronavirus Leads to Low Mortgage Rates

Devon Thorsby | March 16, 2020

Economic uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19 sends mortgage rates historically low, and it might be the right time to buy or refinance.

States With the Lowest Property Taxes

Devon Thorsby | March 11, 2020

Median property taxes in these states are the lowest in the U.S.

What to Know About Moving to Hawaii

Devon Thorsby | March 6, 2020

Get ready for sun, sand and a high cost of living if you're considering a move to Hawaii.

5 Reasons You’re Still Renting

Steven Gottlieb | March 6, 2020

Financial, personal and professional factors may lead you to put off homeownership. Should you remain a renter indefinitely?